December 12, 2012 by cyraxblog
I did a crazy thing over the weekend. I put $25 on the line to sign up for a game jam that tasked entrants into making a game within 48 hours. Not only was this my first game jam, but also the first time I really committed myself into developing something. I didn’t reach my goal, but I’m still happy I tried.
My challenge, beyond the obvious, was to make a game based on Immortality with an element of Ukuleles, which were randomly chosen for me. I choose my third idea, a runner about Dracula being woken by a group of Ukulele players and the ensuing chase afterword, called Dracula Dash. I sought the programs I needed, Stencyl and Paint.net, the former being particular nice for people who’ve no idea how to make games, and make them relatively easily. With those tools, and help from the Stencyl IRC channel, I set out to make my game.
The whole experience was a struggle. Having never been a content creator in the software area, it seemed everything I did took double the amount of time it would with someone somewhat familiar with the tools. I was a general laborer until recently, so I know that learning takes time, and is a constant process. However, in construction plans are usually fixed, and there’s a right way to do things that will almost always lead to the desired goal. There’s a predetermined, proper path because the cause and effects have been tested and used before to set precedent. Game development seems more like a recipe. You have a goal, ideas added to your goal, and a reasoned way to get there. How you get there, and other things added or taken away, can change the process and challenge you often. Finally, you get a tactile response working with your hands, there’s an immediacy to cause and effect. If a change is needed, you likely get a new tool or approach to the problem. Developing, the obstacles are varied and can be many, but miniscule.
I decided to pull an all-nighter Sunday night, the night before my Monday afternoon deadline. I knew I need the time. I’d already spent near half my time doing pixel art. At that point, I had an auto-running AI, playable running Dracula with a jump, tiles to run on, and a camera that followed Dracula fixed to the left perspective of the screen (not easy to figure out!). I set art aside the night, only doing a boulder which I needed, and most of my time went to polishing what was already there.
Thankfully, it was one of the only times I can remember barely being tired staying awake through the morning. I felt most productive in that time, and was surprised at how fast it went by. I don’t remember what transpired in the morning. All I can think of is the progress halting bug I got sometime after 10am. I was tinkering with Dracula, making him auto-run so I could get an idea for how long the level was. A little time after that, when I would play the level, I could only get Dracula to move a little ways before he would just stop. Two hours later, I found out my camera had two different actors for x and y. Fixing that got rid of the problem, but along the way I made more for myself. I redid some of the game just to troubleshoot, and in doing so I messed up the smooth running and jumping I had before.
It was well after noon and I knew I didn’t have the time left I needed, much less wanted. Before the deadline, I put in the Ukulele music, some platforms, tried to get a light obstacle in, and finish only what I needed to have. In my mind, I needed an intro, credits, and goal/win system to consider it a game. I didn’t get those in.
What did I take away from this experience? I learned a few things. First, you may think you have good time management, but until you’ve tried something or gone through it before, you’re likely off base. I thought my idea was simple, straightforward, and I could at least make a decent go at it. Anything with multiple cause and effect scenarios, especially things that are kinetic, are not simple, or straightforward. Next, is time management. Being a one man team, I tried doing it all. Instead, I should’ve focused on the gameplay, and let that speak for itself. I spent alot of time being proud of my first attempt at pixel art, but a simple shape was all I really needed. Finally, I got my appetite back for doing new things. For years I’ve been stuck in a rut, first at college which I gave up on, then at a job which rarely brought me joy.
I’m extremely proud of myself. I took on a challenge, earnestly work at it, and came out a better person even though I didn’t prevail in the traditional sense. I never really understood how people that came into second or third could still be happy. I never was, winning was the goal. Now I see the process in itself is its own priceless reward. I wouldn’t even change the mistakes I made (in the future I would!) because those are the ones that arguably helped me grow the most.
I can’t wait to take on a new challenge.
Here’s my time-lapse video of the experience.
And click here to download Dracula Dash. Unfortunately, it’s missing the Ukulele sound, as it wouldn’t publish otherwise. Get some Ukulele off YouTube while you play, it makes it 90% better!